‘Development of Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Support of Local Handicrafts in Rural Azerbaijan’ is a joint effort between the Turku University of Applied Sciences Ltd. and Sustainable Future in Finland and Ekoloji Tarazliq NGO as a local partner, with the aim of creating rural businesses and services in order to attract tourists to the three project areas. Thus far, most of the tourists in Azerbaijan have been business travellers staying in the capital, Baku. The project (implemented in 2012-2014) has introduced PPP or public-private partnership approaches in the promotion of sustainable tourism through the involvement of various stakeholders from small-scale entrepreneurs to national level authorities. The most important stakeholder groups are the local communities, entrepreneurs, handicraft masters, and owners of households providing accommodation services to travelers.
Several challenges and areas of development in rural tourism have been identified: insufficient infrastructure in rural areas, varying quality of services, and unclear brands of different regions. Rural tourism has great potential in Azerbaijan, but it needs promotion and support, especially in organized structures for service design and marketing channels, which require strong cooperation on the national and local level.
The project envisages eco-cultural tourism as a concept which emphasizes unique environmental conditions and traditional cultural values in order to create favorable conditions for tourists; meanwhile it presents marginal livelihoods a novel source of income. Sustainability and participation are crucial for the long-term future of eco-cultural tourism, which could, with strong multilevel cooperation and comprehensive service design structures, promote economic development and support especially women’s participation and role in the tourism market of the rural areas.
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